There are at present no evidence-based guidelines on the use of immobilization in the management of common acute soft-tissue knee injuries. Our objective was to explore the practice patterns of emergency physicians (EPs), sports medicine physicians (SMPs) and orthopedic surgeons (OS) regarding the use of early immobilization in the management of these injuries. The overall response rate was 44 of 112 (39%): 17 of 58 (29%) EPs, 7 of 15 (47%) SMPs and 20 of 39 (51%) OS. In cases of suspected meniscus injuries, 9 (50%) EPs indicated they would prescribe immobilization, whereas no SMPs and 1 (5%) OS would immobilize (p = 0.002). For suspected anterior cruciate ligament injuries, 13 (77%) EPs, 2 (29%) SMPs and 5 (25%) OS said they would immobilize (p = 0.005). For lateral collateral ligament injuries, 9 (53%) EPs, no SMPs and 6 (32%) OS would immobilize (p = 0.04). All respondents would prescribe immobilization for a grossly unstable knee.
The study found that EPs were are more likely to prescribe immobilization for certain acute soft-tissue knee injuries than SMPs and OS. The development of an evidenced- based guideline for the use of knee immobilization after acute soft-tissue injury could reduce practice variability.